Having read some of the reviews of Queen Elizabeth cruises I was having some concerns about this Alaska cruise. Different people have different experiences, even on the same voyage, and I was pleased we enjoyed our June 10-day cruise very much. We had been on this ship only once before and that was in Princess Grill. This time we were in a Britannia balcony stateroom.
Embarkation in Vancouver can be chaotic, but some improvements in the procedure have been made since our last cruise from that port four years ago. Although we are now top-tier members of Cunard’s loyalty programme and entitled to preferred check-in we were given a time of 3:00 p.m. Our travel agent phoned Cunard and was told that we need pay no attention to that and can expect to board at 12:15. I have made comments in the appropriate Cruise Critic forum about the Vancouver embarkation so will not elaborate, other than to say there is still a lot of walking to do and going up to the convention level then back down again, but we did not have to stand for any length of time. We did arrange for a wheelchair for me wife who can’t walk long distances or stand for a long time. Cunard permitted early boarding (about 11:00) with the understanding that staterooms would be available between 12:00 and 12:30. We had arrived at the baggage drop-off area to receive the wheelchair assistance at 10:45 and were sipping tea in the ship’s Lido at 11:15.
I am not going to complain about the weather, but anyone unfamiliar with a cruise to Alaska is advised to be prepared for anything, except maybe a summer snow-storm. On our previous Alaska cruise four years ago there was not a drop of rain. This time we had plenty and it was quite cold on deck, but comfortably cool in the ports. I brought a light toque, scarf and gloves for my walks on deck.
The décor of the ship appeals to me very much. Some, but not all, of the interior public rooms are, to me, superior to the equivalent on the Queen Mary 2. The Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Court Theatre, the grand lobby and the library are more pleasing to my taste. If a ship could combine the best of the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth it would be a perfect ship.
We had been given a slight upgrade to a rather odd-shaped stateroom. One wall was longer than the other, so the balcony door and window were on a sharp angle. This provided a two-sided balcony that was about double the usual size. It was noticeably bigger than the Princess Grill balconies, which are actually quite small. Being on Deck 4, the forward view was mostly blocked by a life-boat, but as we had not paid the higher rate for this accommodation I couldn’t complain.
The food and service in the Britannia restaurant was very good indeed. The timings of the two dinner sittings had been changed for these Alaska voyages, with the first being at 5:30 and the second at 7:45. I expect that many on the first sitting would find the earlier time to be inconvenient, but we had chosen the second sitting and the time was perfect. When we travel in the Grills we usually go to dinner at 7:45, so this was convenient for us.
Cunard continues to excel at afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room. On all but one day - when there was an orchestra and two singers with loud and rather unpleasant voices - the string orchestra or harpist or pianist provided suitable music to enhance the enjoyment of the tea experience. The tea itself was sometimes a bit weak. We saw one gentleman bring his own loose tea and strainer and made his own brew.
I won’t comment on the ports as much has been written about them in other reviews.
The entertainment on board, as usual with Cunard, provides for all tastes. There are many interesting talks. I despise the “big shows” in the theatre. To assure myself nothing has changed I poked my head in a few times for 30 seconds. There was an acrobatic duo one night which my wife and I enjoyed. Fortunately there was always something soothing after dinner: the stings, harpist or pianist in the Grand Lobby or the Commodore Club.
In respect to those who live close to the ship’s docks, Cunard (and I suppose other cruise lines) do not broadcast any outdoor messages on the tannoy nor do they have the usual loud sail-away music on departure. I appreciated this as I did not have to avoid the rear open decks in order to protect my eardrums.
Some people complain about the dress code. I will complain, but for reasons not often seen in a review. Since the retirement of the QE2 in 2008, Cunard has been dumbing down the dress standards. The number of formal nights (now called gala) was a paltry two on this 10-night cruise. I have not seen a ratio like this before on Cunard. The last time we were on this ship was a seven-night cruise to Norway on which there were three formal nights. I have never gone to dinner on a Cunard ship without a jacket and tie and have no intention to start doing so. By no means was I the only one. There were many men who dressed traditionally. On “smart attire” nights, except for the first night, the description was “jacket – tie optional”. I must say the two gala nights were glamorous affairs and I heard no grumbling about this. I suppose those who dislike this tradition ate in the cafeteria.
The “senior officers party” for those at the top two levels of the Cunard World Club was held at 11:00 a.m. The dress code was “smart attire – jacket optional.” I was pleasantly surprised that most people dressed well. A few men even wore tuxedos and some women wore evening dress, including one elegant lady in a white ball gown with a fur wrap. Perhaps this was a little over the top at 11:00 a.m.
There were no other ships in Vancouver on our day of arrival. Due to our Diamond level status we were called ashore at 8:20, just five minutes after the Grills passengers. Getting a taxi was easy.
This voyage deserved four and a half stars, but as that option isn’t available I gave four stars. Five stars may imply perfection.
As indicated in the review, this had an unusual shape. With it being longer on one side than the other, the balcony door and window were on a sharp angle. The added space could have held another small sofa or a large chair but was left empty. Otherwise it was a standard cabin with a king-sized bed, small sofa, desk and a small but adequate toilet, sink and shower room.